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Tuesday, 16 August 2011


Ah, Erwitt. He just can't be referred to or referenced enough in my book. One of the all time great visual wits.

I do like that Stan Banos shot. You say 'nondescript and uninteresting', I say 'semi-unremarkable' - a quality I recognise in a lot of successful street photographs. But this photo also plays a cruel visual trick; that inversion of shadows on the central rail (on the bottom of the rail, but on top in the central section) temporarily plays on one's sense of Escherian geometry.

Interesting to read your likening tones to musical notes. The more I print and look at black and white photographs, the more I find myself referring to highlights, midtones and shadows as the soprano, the alto/tenor and the bass, and the more I think of tonal relationships as chords.

Mike, your comment about the "mere act of drawing attention to something we might not otherwise pay attention to" intriques me.

I am not an artist, and it is probably stretching it to say I am a photographer. I am just a guy with a camera and most often, the best I can hope for is that my pictures somehow "pay attention." I mostly fail at this, but it is worth pursuing because, to me, illuminating the commonplace is one of the great strengths of photography. It's a place to start, anyway.

Hi Mike,

Interesting effect on the Stan Banos image, it reminds me of the illusory images with parallel lines through circles etc.
I suspect it took a lot of setting up as the way the base of the shadow just touches the wall/ground join, the horizontals align with the mid-point of the windows and the diagonal just misses the window and chair corners means there is only one time of day, and possibly only twice a year, that the image could be taken.

it reminds me of this image;

all the best phil

I like that photo, shabby chic is not dead as some have supposed.

Wow, that photo really does play with your mind! If you concentrate on the shadow part of the wall and cover the other parts, you would almost think that the line going through the wall is recessed not relief. And only on the highlight sections can you tell that it is actually relief.


Phil- As for time spent setting up- the time to get off my bike, put camera to face and compose (ie- luck of the draw)...

My attempt at threading the tonal merger needle:


With digital, by setting the display to black-and-white, the visualization is a little easier.

Funnily enough, I read about Erwitt's exhibition in New York just yesterday. Open till August 28.

@Stan B. In that case, well done for a good spot! I'd imagined you seeing the shadow move each day until it was just so.
Thought provoking image.

cheers phil

I'm hoping to hit the exhibit at the ICP next week while my lovely ladies hit the American Girl doll store :) (Take the credit card & have fun !)

Your article neatly expresses exactly why I don't do b/w conversions. It's because I don't envision them in b/w in the first place - I have no intention of producing b/w images when I take pictures. I don't look at my pictures in b/w on any regular basis and only occasionally see a picture after downloading that strikes me as something that would look good converted. Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn't, but it's nothing I try on a regular basis or use to rescue photos (ok, I do try once in a while and you're right - it almost never works). When a conversion occasionally works, I'll sometimes keep it that way. (I know I can always undo it). But it's never a result I'm comfortable with precisely because I believe that unless there's some intent, you're just monkeying around and your results are accidental. And sure, there's nothing wrong with the occasional accident (notably the shot that had something in it that you didn't see at the time you took the picture) but it's not really satisfying. As an amateur, I have the luxury of not needing good results. So I can do photography for the enjoyment of doing it as much as for the result. I also happen to think I have an eye for color, but maybe that's just me :) (Don't look at my gallery; there's nothing remotely recent in there and nothing that would back up this claim !)

I like this, creating interest and curiocity out of the mundane. Kurt Schwitters did the same thing for me many years ago. I have said and have been condemed for the remark that part of a photographers learning should include drawing and basic design. Bresson knew this as have many other notable photographers. The fact that he ended his days drawing only enforces this argument. André Kertész went through the same reductive exercise with his wonderful polaroids and still lifes.

What Edd said. I find myself in that same boat, working hard to "see" the things not seen right under our noses everyday. Maybe not great art, but satisfying to me.

Rod Graham

Uh, Mike, where's the last picture?

Can't resist;

I discovered a little blog which happens, today, to have a good example of tonal contrast, plus use of tone to focus the attention and pop the subject out of the background.

It's titled "funsters" and is at:

Can't say who dunnit, where, or when, but by me is as good a gimmick photo as anything Erwitt ever did.

Plus being sorta on topic. Kinda. I think anyway.

Looking at this image again I'm thinking that shadow is a bit on the light side, PS shadow and highlight control perhaps...
I am not against the use of such things if they bring out the best of an image, it could quite easliy be done in a wet darkroom so its ok? Yes / no!

Dear Mike, what makes a great photo?

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